Guest Commentary By Keith Dameron
It has been my pleasure to get to know the StayInMay Festival and all of the wonderful cultural activities it brings to our County. For the past five years this Festival has brought talent from around the world to Southwest Florida; and it is with great pride that I tell you that this year’s Festival will bring an exciting event to Marco Island.
Several months ago several of us met with the Festival founder and explored ideas for what would be a great program for Marco. The answer was to feature one of the Island’s treasured artists – Malenda Trick and pair her visual art talent with music. We all know how fantastic it would be to see Malenda paint live; and to paint in her favorite artist’s style – Toulouse Lautrec. But the question then became what music – naturally we went to cabaret to stay with the French theme. The result is that this program will feature three artists that are proud to call Collier County home.
Thursday, May 11 in the Rose Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Society, we all will have the opportunity to enjoy the first StayInMay Festival event on our Island. Malenda will be painting an original work that you will have the opportunity to bid on at the end of the evening. The music for the evening is guaranteed to accompany Malenda perfectly – soprano Steffanie Pearce, founder of Gulfshore Opera and accompanied by Dr. James Cochran, founding director of the Artis-Naples Choruses.
The StayInMay Festival is our own and is only produced in Southwest Florida and was born out of a desire to extend our cultural season. For many of us, during “season” we are so busy we don’t have time to enjoy the many cultural activities that are available – but when our season is over and we have the time for the cultural activities there are very few available. StayInMay has attracted over 60,000 participants to its many events proving that we want opportunities off-season.
It is a unique Festival in more ways than one – having no permanent home – the Festival brings its events to other organizations around our area. Spending time getting to know StayInMay’s partner organizations makes it possible to bring events to them that work not only for the Festival but the partner organizations. It is important to have entertainment opportunities that are accessible to everyone – which means in locations around our area with ticket pricing that is reasonable. With so many organizations competing for your donations to support not only the programs but buildings – this Festival uses the revenue to invest in future festivals and the education programs that the Festival sponsors.
Education is a big part of the Festival’s mission – bringing programs to the young people in our community is an integral part of the Festival. Having the opportunity to work with a professional musician or hear a live concert, or experience a new visual art form is an education that cannot be duplicated in most classrooms. Investing in the arts in our community means investing in our children – the arts provide an expansion of knowledge that is not available on most days in our schools. Enhancing the lives of our children through the arts is important for all of us to treasure; and is a cornerstone of the Festival.
I urge everyone to learn more about the Festival at StayInMay.com – the events begin on April 25 with an incredible visual arts exhibit – From Shanghai to Naples at the Naples Art Association. During the course of the Festival there are programs that target – Health and Wellness, Film Festival, Bluegrass/Rock and Classics with the DePue Brothers; Dick Hyman; Culinary Program featuring the culinary programs of Collier County Schools; Dixieland at the Naples Historical Society; Tokens at the Naples Zoo; and many more. So I encourage you to begin a new tradition and explore the world of the arts at unique venues – and make sure you begin with the wonderful program that will be featured on Marco Island.